Revealed earlier this summer, Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is set to launch Friday, August 20 and sees Jin Sakai travel to the war-ravaged Iki Island. Jin’s journey is personal (somehow even more personal?) and he’ll visit new locations, meet new characters, and help the inhabitants just like on Tsushima Island.
Last year, Ghost of Tsushima came close to being my Game of the Year (Hades nabbed it). I reviewed it and had nothing but heaps of praise for the developers and actors who put together one of the biggest and best first-party exclusive. Ghost of Tsushima was the PlayStation 4’s swan song and was the perfect way to wind down before ramping up into a new console generation. I don’t have much more to say about the base game in this review and plan on largely talking about the new content available.
Iki Island Offers Another Impressive Tale in Jin’s Story
I’ve spent the better part of a week exploring the new island environment and checking out the enhancements made for the PlayStation 5 version of Ghost of Tsushima. In short, the base game is still a great experience but it’s slow to start and doesn’t get going for several hours. As for the new content, I think it’s great and more of what Sucker Punch offered last year, which isn’t bad in the slightest. In order to play the new content, you’ll need to have hit Act 2 of the main Tsushima campaign before moving to the new map.
Without delving too far into story spoilers, Iki Island is an important place to Clan Sakai, one that Jin’s father used to take him as a child. Jin learns that the Mongols have landed on Iki Island, and this small force is led by the revered shaman Ankhsar Khatun, better known as the Eagle. She is extremely powerful as both a shaman and a Khatun, having conquered nations while shepherding souls. She is extremely dangerous to the residents of Iki Island and Jin, so he must put a stop to her plans.
New enemies include the shaman type, a chanting soldier who strengths the troops of the Eagle. The DualSense implementation of the shamans makes great use of the speaker in the controller. My first time hearing the shaman’s chant was off-kilter and threw me out of my game. Sucker Punch’s smart implementation of the war cry immediately caused me to lose focus and watch as Jin was impaled by a hardened spearman.
Enemies on the island also actively swap out their weapons based on Jin’s fighting stance. If you’re fighting in Stone Stance against a swordsman, he might swap out to a spear, so you’ll need to swap to Wind Stance to counter him. I found this new change in battle a welcome one but one with a learning curve that often led to Jin’s death in battle. It’s a challenging new way to approach battles but it enriches the flow of combat for those more adept with the sword.
One of the more impressive additions to the Director’s Cut is how the DualSense is used. Both with the haptic feedback and trigger resistance — each one adding a deft level of immersion and another showcase of what developers can do when they take full advantage of the hardware. Sounds from the DualSense’s speaker filling the room with war cries and clangs of steel clashing.
Parrying and striking send the DualSense’s haptics into a wonderous overdrive when an enemy blocks Jin’s attack or smartly warding off an offence strike. From the clip-clop haptics to the way the controller gently rumbles to the wind, to the resistance of the bowstring and grapple hook when pulling down secret entrances into camps — the DualSense continues to immerse the player.
What’s a samurai doing on Iki Island?
Jin discovers links tying his clan to events that happened on Iki Island. With few clues to go on, the Ghost of Tsushima heads to the nearest archipelago in the Tsushima Strait. It isn’t long before things go sideways for Jin and he is thrust into the events unfolding on the island.
Working with the local raiders, Jin must band together with the inhabitants to push back the invading Mongols and The Eagle. But shortly after arriving on Iki, Jin is ambushed by the invaders and given a poison that begins to unravel the Ghost.
Suffering from vision caused by the effects of the toxins in the poison, Jin begins to have visions of the past chiding him on. These visions temporarily stun Jin with his psyche battling the effects of the shaman’s work.
Iki Island’s narrative unfolds in a roughly 12-hour campaign and one I found to be better than the first act of the Tsushima campaign. I was worried about how the new content would slot into the overarching story being told but any concerns I had were alleviated by the end of things.
Jin learns new skills on Iki Island like the horse charge maneuver —something that I wish was available last year. Essentially the skill is perfect for crowd control when moving across the island. By tapping R1 on a horseback you can lay waste to a group of enemies by charging through the group but it drains your resolve over time.
Sucker Punch has added new minigames around Iki Island, including playing the flute at deer shrines. The minigame uses the DualSense’s motion control by guiding music with an inspired take on synesthesia by moving the controller in tune with Jin to the music. Every successful shrine visit yields new charms and gear a lot of these mechanics you’re familiar with. The island comes with a whole new story, new characters and tons of new content including a new environment to explore and new armour for Jin and his horse to unlock.
DualSense Features are Smartly Implemented
The quality of life improvements for anyone that own’s the game and the alternative control layouts offer more ways to play, and also the option to turn on a target lock-on during combat. It is off by default you’ll need to enable it before activating it by tapping upon the D-Pad. The few times I did use it I didn’t find it to be any worse and than the normal way of fighting enemies but I’m sure some may get milage from the lock-on addition
Sucker Punch listened to fan feedback and smaller changes like turning your quiver on and off are nestled in the Options menu. Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut feels more accessible after a year of feedback from players and as a result, more people will now find the game more accessible but there is always room for improvement in this department and a colourblind mode would go a long way.
Speaking of improvements, last year I mentioned how stunning Ghost of Tsushima truly was. The game performed like a dream and had the best load times of any game up until that point on the PlayStation 4 Pro. One year and one console later, the fact remains — Sucker Punch knows how to build a world full of wonder, beauty and even sadness.
Late last year, the studio released a patch on PlayStation 5 that bumped the game’s visuals and also a frame rate bump. Director’s Cut comes with a dynamic 4K resolution targeting 60 frames per second. Both are viable options and if you’re fine with waiting for a sale then you’re not missing anything and the game is stunning regardless of where you’re playing it. There’s no argument from me that Ghost of Tsushima is a graphical achievement.
Instead, I’m impressed by how the load times are somehow even faster than they are on PlayStation 4. There’s very little time to put the controller down and check my phone. Seeing yet another developer harness the SSD of the PlayStation 5 to remarkable results is what the next generation of consoles is about — efficient ways to keep players in the ecosystem.
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is a great addition to any library on PlayStation 5. Sucker Punch gives us the definitive version of PlayStation 4’s culminating achievement. Exploring more of Jin’s backstory and adding depth to his character is a good improvement. Whether you’re playing the campaign for the first, second, or third time then you’ll enjoy the DualSense implementation added by Sucker Punch. If you’re looking for more content then Iki Island can be considered shochu while the main campaign is sake — the tales of Jin Sakai flourish with a satisfying expansion.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5